Writing 201 Day 3: Trust/Acrostic/Internal Rhyme

Writing 201 Day 3

Word prompt: Trust
Form: Acrostic
Device: Internal Rhyme

Trust or loss of trust as a topic: I’m not particularly interested in delving deep into my psyche and pouring out my heart on my blog in a poetry class assignment, so I chose a topic that has been going around lately that touches on trust (or lack thereof) between people of different genders.

Acrostics: Put a secret message into the poem by linking the first letters of each line. Not to be confused with acrostic PUZZLES like the ones my grandmother used to do when I was growing up. Meh, but okay. I chose a phrase/hashtag that ties in with my trust topic. Also, it’s pronounced uh-kross-tick, not like it says in the daily class assignment.

Internal rhyme: Here there, everywhere, this is free verse, not something with a specific meter, so I just threw stuff in.

This was another poem that I wasn’t really interested in spending much time on because it felt like too much of a contrivance, so it’s not exactly literary journal material, if you get my drift. Still, it’s done!

Now and then I briefly wonder when it was my faith in man was torn asunder —

Or why it was? Because at some point it became clear that there was fear behind the words

That hurt, and taking a man at face value (when his face showed two sides) stopped making sense

As a plan or default setting, because even good intentions sometimes had a cutting edge.

Loving assumptions of feminism stumped me every time when revealed to be false,

Leading and misleading along a pleading path of hopefulness until my trust was lost.

My skepticism, grown from years of tears and schemes and broken dreams of all men friends feeling just like me

Eventually took their toll and now my soul demands that I question all beliefs without relief, forever asking why.

Not that I think men are evil or unjust as a whole, it’s just that now the goal is to trust — but verify.

Writing 201: Journey/Limerick/Alliteration

Day 2 of Writing 201: Poetry. This is an absolutely terrible poem, but I don’t want to spend any more time on this assignment. Sorry. :)

Word prompt: Journey
Form: Limerick
Device: Alliteration

A twittering teen down on Tybee
Posts pics of her stuff labeled BUY ME
Her plan is to leave
Her parents will grieve
And then she’ll start over and fly free

My old creative director always used to say, “When in doubt, rhyme or alliterate.”

I didn’t like this assignment. I don’t have a great fondness for limerick, never have, but I tried to stick with the traditional place naming in the first line, etc. One thing in the assignment didn’t make sense to me. It’s cool that they try to make things pretty open ended just to get people posting, but this instruction bugged me a little:

If you prefer free verse over rhymed poetry, your challenge is particularly interesting: can you write a five-line free-verse poem that’s clearly a limerick?

A strict rhyme scheme is part of the defiition of a limerick, so if you’re going free verse/no rhymes, then by definition it is not a limerick, so saying it could “clearly” be a limerick just doesn’t make sense to me.

This bit got to me as well:

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers

That’s a lot of Ps! My ear is definitely pricked, but does it mean anything? Hard to say.

It does mean something, and something fairly specific (two separate links) at that, so it’s pretty easy to say. Why the diss on Peter Piper? Hrmph.

The topic of journey encompassed all meanings of the word, and despite starting out thinking I’d write a little ditty about that old creative director and how he moved down to Mexico, I wound up with something about a runaway girl. Tybee is a weird place — really poor and really rich all jumbled together on a little strip of sea island (with feral cats). The teens there range from accomplished to apathetic, as anywhere, but because Tybee is so small, it’s hard not to notice the high incidence of drug use among teens, and to see that among the lower economic tier there’s an attitude of giving up before they even hit 18, focusing on Facebook updates and parties rather than trying to get out of the cycle. (Admittedly, Tybee doesn’t do a good job of giving them other things to do there.) Bah, bummer poem.

Hey, You Guys: A Personal History


Being inside a womb by myself, I was never included in group address. Also, I don’t think my parents were the kind of people who talked to the belly or played music to increase fetal development. It was the 70s. While pregnant with me, my mom smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish (her words).


“Be a good girl.”

“You’re such a pretty girl.”

“Kids! C’mere!”

As a very little kid, the only mixed-gender group I was part of was the group with my two older brothers. We mostly were referred to as a group as kids, not guys, so while I was frequently referred to as a girl (and frequently a little girl) when addressed directly, the group address usually ignored gender.


“Boys and girls, stand for the pledge [of allegiance].”

“Attention, boys and girls!”

“Okay, kids, line up in pairs.”

“Everyone, blah blah blah.”

As kids in school, we were frequently referred to as boys and girls* by adults. Individually, we were just referred to by name. Kids referring to each other used names individually, and I want to say the plural you for groups without an extra noun. /me thinks backs to elementary school and asking a group of kids to do something. Yeah, mostly the plural you. Very occasionally there would be a, “Hey, you gu-uys,” exclamation, but that was mostly imitation of tv, not a form of address that we used with each other in conversation.


All Boys: “Those boys are jerks.”

All Girls: “Those girls are mean.”

Boys and Girls: “What are those guys doing over there?”

As we grew into adolescence, you guys started making more of an appearance, and adoption rates were skyscraper-high. We referred to boys and girls all the time, but in direct address had started adding guys to the lexicon, including when a group included both genders. This was the turning point for the language in my personal history of you guys as plural noun of direct address. Here’s how it seemed to break down.

Singular Male Plural Male Singular Female Plural Female Plural Mixed-gender
Indirect He, him, that boy, [name] Them, those boys She, her, that girl, [name] Them, those girls Those guys
Direct [name],”Hey, you” You, boys, guys [name],”Hey, you” You, girls, guys You guys

In some cases we’d still use the specific-gendered plural noun, like to ask, “Hey, boys, do you want to play kickball with us?” But, most often, guys was becoming the norm for male plural direct address and for plural mixed-gender references of any sort.

The Electric Company-style, “Hey, you gu-uys!” got a little resurgence in this period when The Goonies came out, too.

Teens — 40

You guys had come to mean any group of people, regardless of gender. It was used on me all the time, and I used it on others. That said, you guys still also served as a plural of specifically male people. In a mixed group, context would determine the intent.

“Are you guys going to Carolyn’s party after the football game?”

Here, you guys meant all members of the group, any gender. (Because everyone was supposed to go to Carolyn’s party.)

“You guys have it so much easier when you have to pee while we’re snowshoeing.”

Even though the group was mixed-gender, the comment was directed only at the men in the group, based on anatomy and its relation to heavy snow gear. Yes, guys = penises in this case.

Occasionally people used gendered plural terms on me like girlsladies, or gals. I disliked them all.

  • Girls sounded like a group of little kids, and by the time I was 16 I didn’t like being called by this label, even though I sometimes still referred to myself (pretty often) or groups of women (rarely) this way.
  • Ladies had all kinds of specific connotations about class, abilities, and weaknesses. I always hated it, and tried never to use it. Primary exception was a brief stint in 1998 when a group of co-workers (including me) would break into Ladies’ Night on a regular basis.

  • Don’t even get me started on what an unappealing word gals is. My first boyfriend’s mom used to say gals all the time, and I flinched every single time.

During this period of time, ongoing socialization around the term you guys and experience parsing its intent based on context caused me to take this as a fluid language thing, and I was never bothered by being included in this form address. I certainly used it constantly on others, including all-female groups. Oddly, while I didn’t mind being included in you guys in direct address at all, I really disliked it when default singular male pronouns like him/his were used in a situation that could apply to me. Despite being a hardcore feminist, I couldn’t quite get on the hir bandwagon, because I thought it was kind of dumb — it looked like a typo for hair or his when written, and since no one around me had ever said it out loud, my reader’s vocabulary assumed it was a homonym for either her or here, which was just confusing.

Aside: during the teens and twenties portion of this period (when I was pretty flat-chested), in the handful of times when my hair was cut very short, I was frequently misgendered and called a boy or a man.


Holy moly, gender diversity explosion and feminist apocalypse and mass confusion.

More awareness seeped into the general population (or at least my portion of it) about transgender issues, non-binary gender identity, etc. People (in some circles, anyway) started paying more attention to pronouns and how they fit with gender identity. At AdaCamp, a conference for women in open tech (woman was later defined as, “someone who identifies as a woman in a way that is significant to them,” to be more inclusive) attendees were asked to put their preferred pronouns on their name badges to prevent misgendering in conversation.

The “singular they” became a hot topic, with heads butted between modern grammarians and people referencing Shakespeare’s use as evidence of correctness. I started seeing ze and zir and other gender-neutral pronouns I had no idea how to pronounce. I decided the singular they was a good path when in doubt.

Backlash against you guys started in earnest (again, in my corner of demography). At first, I thought it was kind of silly. For 40 years, you guys had meant any group of people! Common usage, changing definitions, etc. In that same time I’d definitely seen other words change meaning or connotation, so why was you guys being accused of erasing women from the narrative, when it was so harmless and widely understood? That’s what I thought to myself.

Then, at the end of a dev cycle that had included several women developers, a male developer said, “Congrats, bros,” when the release went live and I really didn’t like it. Would “Congrats, guys” have been better? I thought so. Guys had clearly acquired an ungendered usage over time (in my opinion), whereas bros was definitely gendered, and in tech was gendered in such a way as to be pretty problematic (read: sexist dude who thinks women’s role in tech = booth babes or video game rape victims), right? So guys was still okay? Guys vs. bros aside, even though though I had been one of the people pushing for more diversity (including welcoming language) in the project, I was too intimidated by the guy (yes, an actual guy) who had congratulated the dev bros, because I just didn’t have the energy that day to defend against the backlash I expected if I were to bring up that bros wasn’t inclusive language. Why was it all so exhausting and complicated? Argh!

Then, at the Community Leadership Summit before OSCON, a woman gave a lightning talk about you guys, and how it made her feel left out/invisible when it was used as a form of address or reference when she was in a group of male developers. That made me think, “Hm. I don’t want to use language that makes people feel bad if I can avoid it.” I tried to stop saying you guys. Holy crap, so hard. Talking with Leslie at the event, she said she likes to use the word humans, but I think that sounds weird when I say it, plus I think of the Community Human Being mascot, which has always totally creeped me out.

(The “epically neutral mascot” is still referred to as he twice in this clip. Yes, sure, they could be referring to the person inside the costume, but grammatically that’s not what they said, so it comes across as default gendering.)

I tried substituting folks, y’all, people, plural you, generic heya, and other variations into my daily expressions. I probably used one of these replacements about 95% of the time. There was about 5% of the time when I forgot, or when I actually was referring to specific people who were male and used the word guys intentionally.

What happened in the 5% times? There have been a few scenarios.

Scenario 1: I caught myself and then fumbled a replacement phrase.

“Hey, you guy — er, you all, sorry, I’m trying to stop saying you guys to mean groups of people that include women — are you ready to leave for dinner?”

Result 1: A little awkward, but good-intentioned. Responses ranged from casual disinterest to nodding approval to weird looks, depending on the group.

Scenario 2: I missed it and no one noticed, including me.

“Hey, you guys, blah blah blah.”

Result 2: No one noticed, or at least no one brought it up, and since I didn’t notice either, it went uncorrected. In these cases it’s usually people who don’t care, so while I wasn’t setting the best example, I also probably wasn’t offending anyone. Unless there were people in the group who were offended but afraid to say something. Bah.

Scenario 3: I missed it, and someone other than me noticed.

Me: “Hey, you guys, blah blah blah.”

Someone Else: “Hey, you said you guys, and it made me uncomfortable.”

Result 3a: Caught! I apologized, saying something like, “Ack! I try not to do that, thanks for catching it and letting me know, it helps me remember.”

Result 3b: What? I was actually referring to a specific set of people who were male, so you guys was totally appropriate! Wasn’t it? Example:  I meant Barry and Alek, and referred to them as “the systems guys,” meaning “the 2 [male] guys that handle systems on this project.” I explained this, but the idea that the group to which I was referring would always be male-only was at issue as an undercurrent around expectations of gendered jobs and hiring. My brain could follow this, but at the same time, rebelled at the thought that we have to actually remove guys from the vocabulary altogether to prevent misinterpretation. This was the situation most likely to trigger defensiveness for me.


So where does that leave the well-intentioned liberal intersectional feminist? Definitely avoiding using guys to mean a group that is mixed gender or could be mixed gender. Only using guys to refer to specific guys, and not when using any other descriptors that might be non-specific, thus tainting the specificity? I understand not wanting it used both ways (despite common usage patterns), but what’s the ruling on gender-specific usage?

[I really want to embed “I’ve Heard It Both Ways” from the Psych musical episode, but wow is USA clamped down tight on copyright and video.]

Can you have it both ways? If we say don’t use guys to mean groups including women because it assigns everyone in the group with male gender shouldn’t that mean that using guys to mean men is okay?  I find it confusing and exhausting when even the specific use is seen as offensive. The fact that I want to be sensitive to how language affects others just makes it more annoying, because I care about the answer.

What’s even worse — I have typically used dudes interchangeably with guys as both a non-gendered and a gendered pronoun, so I have been trying to stop using that one, too. Even though it is super fun to say! And has a lot of really specific cultural reference points for my generation!

Oddly, when referring to multiple animals of the same sex, I totally say girls or boys instead of guys, but then that brings up a whole different set of confusing language issues around anthropomorphization and infantilization that are far too obnoxious to think about when I should be having brunch.

3 cats snuggling together on a bed.

The girls.

Have a great Sunday! :)

*Does anyone else think it’s weird that we do that? Boys and girls, I mean. Would we pick any other difference and use it to segment a group of kids (or adults, for that matter, as with ladies and gentlemen)? No wonder we grow up so obsessed with that difference. What if classes were started with, “Attention, short kids and tall kids!” Or fat/skinny, rich/poor, white/black, outgoing/shy, funny/boring, or any other binary that’s really a spectrum? Sorry, tangent.

Speaker Spotlight: Erick Prince-Heaggans

I’m so stoked about having Minority Nomad as a speaker at Press Publish, I’m even reblogging the speaker announcement. :)

Note: I do not like the UI of how reblogs are displayed in this theme. Hmph.

Press Publish

We got so lucky on this one! The hard part about getting travel bloggers to speak at a blogging conference is that they’re likely to be, well, traveling. When we first spoke to photojournalist and travel writer Erick Prince-Heaggans to see if he would be interested in being a part of Press Publish, he’d recently landed in Bali, and had a travel schedule planned through the end of summer that was going to take him through Europe, Africa, and Asia. Luckily for us, the stars (and flight schedules) aligned just right for us to bring him to Portland by way of Bangkok to share his experiences with you.

There are so many reasons I’m excited to have Erick join us. Where to start?

Erick makes his living as a photojournalist and travel blogger, visiting places all over the world. That’s a career I know many people would love to have…

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Banning Conversion Therapy for Minors in Oregon

This morning I got an email from change.org telling me about a petition. I get emails like this a lot, and often I don’t do much with them, because a lot of them don’t seem like they’re going to change anyone’s mind in Washington. Thinking back to my Greenpeace days/Human Rights Campaign Fund days/a dozen other non-profits that I volunteered for days, petitions just aren’t usually a big game changer. Back then they had a points system for registering voter opinion — a form letter was worth x points, a hand-written letter was worth 5x points, a phone call was worth 10x points (in those days long-distance wasn’t free), and a petition signature was worth about 110x points. In those politically passionate days I wrote a lot of letters. One of Mark Hatfield’s aides or interns wrote me back some very enjoyable responses on his behalf. But today I signed an online petition.

It’s a petition to ban conversion therapy for minors in the state of Oregon. Conversion therapy is when you try to force someone who is gay to believe that they are not gay (remember But I’m a Cheerleader?). If you took any other personal characteristic (race, gender, liking cats or dogs, being vegan or a carnivore, etc) you would probably get about the same success rate in “converting” the subject’s feelings and beliefs about themselves, since it’s basically a combination of brainwashing and negative reinforcement that adds up to abuse. And in this case, sexual abuse. And in the case of minors, yeah, how the hell is this legal? It’s one thing if an adult wants to squash their sexuality, it’s quite another for a parent to be allowed to make that decision for their child. So, yeah. I read the bill that is the subject of the petition, HB 2307, which is currently in committee, and I signed the petition. I’ll also contact my reps directly, because, you know, points. :)

What can you do, if you live in Oregon?

Cat Department Course Catalog

CAT 101: Intro to Snuggles

This freshman survey course will cover the basics of introductory snuggling. Topics to be covered include purring, head rubs, and people kisses. Familiarity with “making the bread” technique recommended.
Instructor: Miz Kirby

CAT 109: Beginner Naps

50% of your day is spent in light sleep. Are you making the most of your naps? This course addresses the various positions, locations, and styles available to potential nappers. Special attention will be paid to the “on important papers” location and the “upside down smiling face” position.
Instructor: Sadie Zap

CAT 118: Suitcases

In this course, learn the warning signs of your person’s imminent departure, often symbolized by the opening of a suitcase. We’ll discuss different types of suitcases and the best place to sit on or in them to impede your person’s ability to pack and depart. Other departure warning signs will also be covered, including cleaning frenzies, extra bowls of water, and a radio/light left on in the bedroom.
Instructor: Bailey

CAT 132: Laundry I

A hamper filled with clothes waiting to be washed is a feline paradise. Burrowing opportunities abound, and everything smells like your person. Hiding in the basket, stealing items such as socks, and scattering the clothes/upending the basket will all be covered.
Instructor: O’Malley’s Ghost

CAT 133: Laundry II

A follow-up to the popular Laundry I, this course covers the possibilities inherent in a basket of clean laundry. We’ll dive into diving into the basket, meditation to induce shedding on the clothes, peeing in the basket to express anger or frustration, and scattering the clothes/upending the basket.
Instructor: Princess Bandit

CAT 231: Advanced Snuggles

Building on the basic skills covered in CAT 101, in this course you’ll learn advance snuggling techniques designed to bring your adorability to the next level. A combination of specific movements and positions will both induce your person to pick you up for an impromptu snuggle and cause them to exclaim, “You’re so cute!” after the snuggle commences. Guest lecturers will be utilized for some positions. Please check with your veterinarian before beginning this or any form of strenuous exercise.
Prerequisite: CAT 101
Instructor: Miz Kirby

CAT 226: Situational Sounds

Instructor: With over 100 vocal sounds to choose from, communication with your human should be a breeze. From the “really, wake up, feed me now” soliciting purr to the “I want that bird” machine-gun chirp, this course will address sounds with specific meanings to help you get your point across.
Instructor: Bailey

CAT 345: Haters & Allergics

Learn to use your innate psychic abilities to identify people who don’t like cats and/or are allergic to them and maximize their discomfort by outward shows of extreme interest and affection. $10 materials fee.
Prerequisite: CAT 231
Instructor: Miz Kirby

CAT 410: Hijinks

Any kitten can get away with destructive hijinks, but what about the adult cat? In this course, re-learn some of the most enjoyable hijinks you can get into, but also how to turn your person’s ire into “awww” by way of cute facial expressions and lovable post-hijinks behaviors. This master class will cover a wide variety of destructive hijinks, including: knocking things down, stealing food off plates and running away with it, sliding behind books on shelves to knock them onto the floor, slithering into kitchen cabinets to knock things over, eating plastic shower curtains, knocking paintings off walls, and more.
Instructor: Pickle

Looks Like Diversity (or Does It?)

Over the past two years, some of my work has been focused on trying to increase diversity in the WordPress open source community. This has included trying to get meetup and WordCamp organizers to commit to more diverse organizing teams and speaker rolls, something that has been a bit hit or miss. In some cases, giving some advice about how to reach out to different communities has been enough for someone to go all in and come up with groups of people that don’t all look the same or have similar backgrounds/experiences, while in others it has felt like we were wasting our breath, and that unless it was mandatory, the organizers would just choose from the people who applied rather than doing the extra work to reach out for a more varied slate of presenters to represent the community. It is a bummer when the latter is the case, but there’s only so much we can do when there are relatively few people who get paid to work on this stuff (and they are all juggling way more wp hours than a normal 9-5 would take) and the rest are volunteers.

The thing is, what does it mean to have diverse speakers?

In terms of gender it’s pretty simple — don’t have only men, include women and people from elsewhere on the gender spectrum. At the very least, it should not be hard to find women speakers if you take the time to go looking for them, because there are women doing cool stuff with WordPress everywhere.  Many women who’ve gotten involved with the project have said that seeing a woman on stage at a WordCamp was the thing that made them feel like there was a space for them here. Mel Choyce’s post about women in the WordPress community and her first WC experience echoes what I’ve heard from many women.

Or is gender simple? As more and more people come out as trans, it’s important to make sure they feel welcome and included in the community (well, assuming they’re into WordPress and would like to be part of it), and visible representation is a part of that. But many people, while wanting to not worry about being treated poorly due to their trans status, don’t really want to talk about their trans status all the time, or include it in bios on speaker pages. And why should they? Do other bios say, “John is a man from Idaho?” No, They say, “John is a web developer from Idaho.” No gender reference at all! So if we have do have speakers who identify as trans, but their outward appearance reads as pretty straightforward male or female, how do potential trans attendees (or contributors) know there are people like them on stage, and that they themselves might have a place there someday?

Likewise, the question of invisibility around race/ethnicity/sexuality/etc gets blurry when the average attendee just can’t tell. I was at the Community Leadership Summit last year before OSCON and I was in an unconference session about diversity at open source conferences when one of the participants, a black man, asked if choosing diverse speakers mattered if no one know they were something other than generic WASPs. In his part of the country especially, it’s not uncommon for people from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds to pass (unintentionally) as white. So, for example, if they had a gay Cuban man, a trans man, a dude with Asperger’s, and a light-skinned black man on the speaker list (along with other people), but the audience read all of them as generic white guys, what would that say about the diversity of the speaker roll (knowing that references to the various diverse statuses would appear nowhere in the bios or in the presentations themselves)? Instead of looking like people from varied experiences (which they were) it looked like they were more of the same old same old, and he was worried people would complain about lack of diversity, especially since they had set out to create a diverse speaker list. We didn’t come to any kind of satisfactory answer in that session, but I think he raised a valid question about the idea of checkboxes on a census form vs. the way someone is perceived by others, and what representation really means. It’s so hard to figure out!

Privacy is paramount in all things; if someone doesn’t want to put some aspect of their demographic profile in their biography — gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity/race, disability, age, whatever — then they shouldn’t, period. And no one should feel like they have to represent a whole demographic slice because they’re the only one on the lineup (or ever, but that’s a separate issue). This is even more true when the status in question has absolutely nothing to do with their topic. The expertise of someone speaking on “how to choose a theme” is in no way affected by almost ANY of those things (well, maybe disabilities, if they were looking at accessibility/usability). Sure, if you’re speaking at a conference about power dynamics in a multi-gendered world, your gender status makes a big impact on your relevance to the topic, but with WordPress stuff? It really doesn’t, except in the more general “WordPress is for everyone” sort of way. Trotting out speakers with diverse backgrounds — “Ooh, look, not only do we have a pretty even gender balance, but we have an African-American and a Latina, too!” — just to show how progressive you are is just exploitive and sucky.

But! (There’s always a but.)

Given what we know about the sociological mechanics behind people applying to speak at events, it’s pretty basic stuff to know that speaker applications come mostly from the people who are already comfortable in the knowledege that there’s a place for people like them on the speaker roll, in whatever sense they define “people like them” in the moment. That means that to find the hidden gems — or frankly, not really hidden, just not on our personal radar — who don’t have that level of confidence already and/or aren’t so ridiculously overexposed at conferences (usually minorities), we have to work harder to find them, encourage them, help them if needed, and commit to not just looking at applications that came in over the transom.

So when someone says something like, “I can’t help it if 90% of our applications were from white dudes, we said in the post that we encouraged women and minorites to apply to speak!” it makes me purse my lips and remind myself to take a few deep breaths while I remember that part of diversity is having different beliefs and backgrounds, and that many people haven’t read all those studies (or any of those articles summarizing studies), and that other people may have but just really think diversity is not important and/or not their job. Side note: It’s at  those times I briefly think to hell with diversity, the world would be more peaceful if everyone thought the same thing (wouldn’t even matter what we all thought as long as it was the same). 

In preparing to select speakers for an upcoming conference, I have had these thoughts in the back of my mind a lot lately. We weren’t even doing speaker applications in this case, it was all by invitation, but we did take recommendations from some colleagues with good instincts and connections. Perhaps not shockingly, many of the recommendations happened to be upper middle-class white people. Not because of any explicit bias, but for a lot of the same reasons (I think) that have to do with why people from other backgrounds are less represented in our contributor communities as well, tied to cultural norms around being more exposed to and/or drawn to people like yourself, income/time availability, social connections to help publicize their sites/blogs, and let’s not forget the big one — they call it a majority because there’s just plain more of them.

So we’ve been doing some work over the past couple of weeks looking specifically for bloggers from underrepresented groups. Here’s what I’ve observed so far.

  • There are so many people blogging out there! When there are so many blogs, it is really overwhelming to go looking for new talent, as you have to wade through a lot of junk to find it. There is a reason there are whole organizations and conferences with staffs of people whose sole job is to read blogs and discover new talent.
  • There is some great content housed by really ugly sites. Like, really ugly. So ugly you look at it and think, “This person has no taste.” You know what, though? A lot of published writers probably have crappy taste. It’s not like their publishers let them design their book covers. And look back at your first website. Was it really the bastion of good taste and advanced design you sport now (if you do)?
  • There are a lot of talented bloggers that are on Blogger or Squarespace (and others, but those two came up the most often when I viewed source). I kind of want to have a team that just finds great bloggers — not famous people, or super-high-traffic sites, just good bloggers — and helps them switch onto WordPress. I also want there to be some really nice documentation that explains what WordPress has that those others don’t, with an easy step-by-step guide for making the switch.
  • Blogging is about having something to say. Looking at upper middle-class white people vs people from low-income backgrounds or less academically-inclined lives, the spelling and grammar is in some cases a big differentiator. It’s easy (because we’ve been trained this way) to look at the one with all the perfect sentences and say, “This person is the better writer.” But that person might not have the better story, or be the better storyteller. Let’s face it, the one thing blogging exposes vs. professional publishing is the writer’s spelling and grammar. Anyone who gets published by a magazine or book publisher has an editor that fixes all the errors. Having worked at a publishing house, I can confidently say that some brilliant authors are terrible spellers/grammarians. But we as readers don’t judge them based on spelling or grammar, since we never see it. So suspending judgment a little bit in that area, as hard as it is for me (because I really love good spelling and grammar), might lead to finding some great stories and storytellers on blogs.

Diversity, yep, we’re all different. Except we’re more the same than different, so it’s dumb to feel threatened by diversity. See: The Sneetches. Promoting and exposing people of different backgrounds doesn’t mean less opportunity for the folks in the majority demos. It just means they’ll have to work a little harder to rise to the top, which seems about right. And if the mission is democratizing publishing, then it seems like equalizing the opportunity for exposure and promotion goes hand in hand with that.

How diverse will your next conference be?

Distraction-free Writing Mode

Once upon a time in WordPress there was a New Feature called Distraction-free writing mode. You accessed it by clicking the icon in the editor toolbar that means full screen pretty much everywhere on the web.

post editor toolbar

It would load a new screen tha mostly just consisted of a writing box not surrounded by meta boxes or formatting, and what limited formatting options there were would only appear when you moused out of the writing area. It wasn’t perfect (I would have liked that fading toolbar to have all the same formatting options as the regular editor) but it was pretty non-distracting, and it just felt calm.

old distraction-free writing interface

A while back I noticed some changes in the wp-admin regular editor. All the navigation and meta boxes now faded away while you were writing, and I thought, “Oh, that’s pretty nice, kind of a DFW Lite!” I didn’t pay too much attention, as I was just writing a quick post, but in my head I approved, and thought it was a good improvement. Until this morning.

Most of my blog-based activity happens on work-related blogs that have front-end posting forms, so it’s been a while since I tried to access DFW mode. But I was going to be writing a long post, and I wanted to go over into that peaceful screen, so I clicked on the full-screen icon. That’s when I discovered that what I thought was DFW Lite was actually the new DFW. There was no more new screen.

At first I thought,”Hm, that’s a lot more efficient. Good for them!” Then I started writing, and thought, “[Letters-in-a-configuration-to-replicate-my-slightly-alarmed-and-uncomfortable-sound]!” I hated to admit it, but I felt physically uncomfortable. Am I turning into Sheldon (skip to 3:34)? Crap! Anyway, here’s why I don’t love the new DFW.

When wp core switched over to the “toolbar anchors to top of editor no matter how long your post” setup, users lost the ability to grab a corner of the editor and drag it to make it taller. Since it is supposed to automatically resize as you write, most people thought this was a tradeoff with a net benefit, and even though I really didn’t want to lose my little corner resize handle, I agreed that the net benefit was worth it. The thing is, if in your head you’ve already thought out a long post, starting in the small box feels cramped, kind of like when you have to repack a sleeping bag and you’re smooshing it with all your might to get it to fit back into the compact stuff sack.

Think about opening a New Document in MS Word (or equivalent writing program) , or a writer putting a fresh piece of paper in the typewriter (for those who are too young to remember, it’s like this). There have been reams written by famous authors in the past about the feeling that action engenders — a feeling of limitless possibilities, a knock on the creative door, an open road ahead. That’s what DFW tried to emulate. Starting in the small box instead of the full height box feels like possibilities with limits, a creative window that won’t open more than 3 inches for safety, a road with one lane closed for construction. Thoughts scrunch down to try to fit into the available space.

Even when the box expands to be the height of the screen (minus padding against top and bottom of browser), a chunk of space is lost at the top for the toolbar. That fade it used to have really did remove distraction. I wish there had been a way to combine the zen of the fade away (Matt’s original nickname for DFW was zen mode) with the convenience of the always-at-top placement.

In the old DFW, the writing window really did have that feeling of a fresh New Document or crisp new sheet of paper. Now, even once it’s tall, it’s a bit off-center to the left, because that’s where the editor box is when on a screen containing navigation and metaboxes.

Screenshot of current distraction-free mode

There was a time (pre-2000) when I didn’t think too much about alignment in UIs. Then I got a lot of design ideas drilled into my head that stuck, especially regarding alignment. I like asymmetry in a lot of things, always have. Hell, in a site we were just working on one of the things we said we wanted was some asymmetry. But for DFW, the symmetry — the centeredness — was a big part of what made that screen so calming. Your brain didn’t have to do any pattern recognition or internal balancing to make it feel right. But now it skews to the left and it’s driving me crazy, Sheldon style. This isn’t zen for me; it’s a misused apostrophe, a lowercase p, a cabinet door left open.

I thought I’d be a holdout forever against using the new wordpress.com posting interface (I have a lot of issues with it, surprise), but, well, their DFW has that open and symmetrical feeling (even if it has other problems) that makes for a non-Sheldony writing experience.

Screenshot of distraction-free writing mode on wordpress.com

So this might be my last post written in wp-admin DFW mode for now. Farewell, old friend!

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Standard disclaimer when writing about WordPress: This is my personal opinion. I have not been the UX lead for WordPress core for a couple of years now, so this post on my personal blog should not be seen as representing the WordPress project in any way, it’s just my personal experience with a user interface.